La Treizième Étoile: 06/02/11 - 13/02/11 Blog Archives
News from the European Union with a focus on the South West UK and Gibraltar region and its MEPs
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Is Denmark set to reconsider Euro opt-out amid plans for closer Eurozone cooperation?

Saturday, 12 February 2011
Lars Lokke Rasmussen, 7th December 2009 (Photo: Miguel Villagran/Getty Images)There was a very interesting quote that leapt out from a Reuters dispatch this week. It reads reads: "Closer and deeper cooperation in the Eurozone could very well make it timely for us to re-evaluate [our] Euro opt-out". The country in question: Denmark. The speaker: Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen.

Speaking during the Parliament’s question hour, Reuters reports that Mr Rasmussen, pictured left, said his country could soon need to re-evaluate its outsider position vis-à-vis the Eurozone in light of efforts to “intensify economic cooperation” - a reference to the current French-German proposal to establish a 'Pact for Competitiveness' amongst Eurozone countries.

As is the case with the United Kingdom, Denmark has an opt-out when it comes to membership of the Eurozone, and 53.2% of Danes voted against joining in a referendum held in September 2000.

The country’s current centre-right government (which incidentally does favour adopting the single currency), has since rowed-back and said it would not call another referendum on the Euro, but this contradicts a statement made by the PM Rasmussen in May 2009 when he confirmed that a referendum would be held before the next general elections, which must take place by mid-November this year.

Mr Rasmussen said, in the same announcement, that Denmark was already using the Euro because of the currency peg (ERM II mechanism since 1st January 1999), and they had only decided to remain calling their currency the "danske kroner".

So what chance is there of a referendum soon? With an opinion poll in December showing opposition to the Euro at record strength, it is unlikely the government will want to risk losing a referendum on the Euro at the moment. That said, support for adopting the single currency jumped briefly during the economic crisis, with the pro-Euro side gaining a majority in some polls, but that backing for the common currency has since receded.

Reportedly, and revealingly, the issue has so far not figured at all in early campaigning for the forthcoming Danish elections – although after the Prime Minister’s comments this week, you feel it is only a matter of time before it does once again.

European Parliament's Brussels base falls victim of an armed robbery: AGAIN

Monday, 7 February 2011
Once was anticipatable; twice: remarkable; but for the European Parliament building in Brussels to be robbed at gun point three times in the space of just two years is down-right astonishing and raises huge question marks over the security arrangements in place.

On Friday, two men with a gun robbed the Parliament's post office and escaped with an unknown sum of money in its safe. The post office branch, located on the lower ground floor of the ASP Spinelli building, is located almost immediate opposite one of the main visitor entrances (as illustrated above left) and remarkably within yards of the complex’s main security desk.

British Liberal Democrat MEP Fiona Hall was one of the first on the scene afterwards as she innocently attempted to buy stamps and was confronted by two female staff members who had been held up at gunpoint only minutes earlier. She said that "For an armed robbery to happen – again – inside the European parliament means that the security system here is a complete farce."

In May last year an employee of Sodexo bank was robbed while transporting money from the Parliament canteen, while in February 2009 a man with a gun robbed a branch of ING bank on the ground floor of Parliament's Paul-Henri Spaak building. He had demanded cash from a cashier and escaped with an undisclosed sum.

What is perhaps more alarming is that EU officials seem to believe it was an ‘inside job’ as there is no evidence of forced entry into the building, with one official who was anonymously quoted by the EUObserver as saying: “it could be assistants, there are dozens of companies that come in and out, journalists. Technically, it could even be MEPs."

It will undoubtedly raise further questions about the capability of the local police service to provide enough security men as it happened while all the EU leaders were gathering nearby for their regular monthly summit. Fellow EU blogger @RonPatz hit the nail on the head when he tweeted: “If I was a robber wanting to rob the EU Parliament (as happened today!) I'd also do it during an #EUCO. All police are at Schuman & can't go.

The dilemma for the security team in Brussels thus remains how do you provide adequate security while making Parliament accessible? Thousands of officials, politicians, visitors and journalists gain access to the building every day and are required to pass through a metal detector and provide a form of official identification. It is only right that they remain able to do so as the Parliament should be accessible for all EU citizens, but why has this not prevent Parliament being held at gun point three times in 24 months?

The underline the urgent problem, the head of the Parliament's press service, Jaume Duch, is quoted by the EUObserver saying that “while this is shocking that this has happened again, we have to remember that this is a parliament, not Fort Knox, and it cannot be. It must be open to all citizens. Sometimes we have as many as 10,000 individuals in the building at a time. We can't say that, for example, a doubling of the number of security cameras would do anything at all. We have to balance security and openness."

Now that is happened for a third time, the security concerns will be taken seriously and the problem swiftly resolved before the Parliament makes headlines again as the victim of another massive compromising and embarrassing security breach.

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